§ 4. Mr. Corbyn
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he plans to attend a further meeting of the Trevi group on immigration and related issues.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Wardle)
Trevi is concerned with police co-operation and not with immigration policy. European Community ministerial meetings on these two separate areas of work usually take place on consecutive days. The next formal meetings are scheduled for 1 and 2 June in Copenhagen.
§ Mr. Corbyn
I am grateful for the Minister's claim that the Trevi group is concerned only with policing functions. Perhaps he will take this opportunity to publish the proceedings of all Trevi meetings: then we could be assured that it is not a secret society designed to harmonise immigration and asylum policies throughout Europe and to prevent people from seeking political asylum and safety in western Europe. Does he agree that there is an agenda to try to deny refugees safety and human rights throughout Europe by means of common closing of frontiers?
§ Mr. Wardle
Trevi has nothing to do with asylum seekers. Any decisions made by the Trevi Ministers will be published and made available to the House, as they regularly are.
As the hon. Gentleman knows, at the November meeting—the most recent meeting of Immigration Ministers—decisions were made on manifestly unfounded applications for asylum, host third countries and expulsion policy, and those decisions were made available to the House and placed in the Library. All the policies that I have mentioned are entirely in keeping with the Geneva convention.
§ Mr. Fabricant
Does my hon. Friend agree that, although many hon. Members on both sides of the House would want any application for immigration to be dealt with compassionately, we should also bear in mind the best interests of people already living in this country?
§ Mr. Wardle
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The present Government and successive Governments in this country have operated a firm but fair immigration policy. We shall continue to do precisely that.
§ Mr. Allen
The Minister must be aware that there is great concern that immigration, asylum and other policies are being decided by secret meetings—in the European dimension, by the Trevi group and the ad-hoc group on immigration, and by the K4 group of civil servants. One 1099 example of such policies is to go for the lowest common denominator on visitors' visas. The Government are abolishing the right to appeal against the refusal of a visitor's visa. Will the Minister today give an undertaking that, instead of listening to colleagues in Trevi and other groups, he will listen to those in the other place who are currently discussing the abolition of visitors' visa rights? The Government should listen to the House of Lords when it throws out their proposals, not to people in the Trevi group.
§ Mr. Wardle
I am interested to hear the hon. Gentleman's speculation about what will or will not happen to the Asylum and Immigration Bill in another place. The House will agree that it must make sense for member states of the European Community to harmonise immigration policies, not seek to uniform policy. They should discuss important issues of common interest within a framework of intergovernmental co-operation. Following the Maastricht treaty, that is precisely what will happen under the pillar of co-operation.